clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Washington Nationals’ new bullpen finally blows lead, but Nats fight back for 5-4 win over Houston Astros...

It was Stephen Strasburg and Dallas Keuchel on the hill in a good old-fashioned Texas showdown on Thursday night. Neither of their starts ended up mattering, as it turned out.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

On a night that was supposed to be about starting pitching, the early innings of the game were all but forgotten as the new members of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen finally combined to blow a lead.

Stephen Strasburg and Dallas Keuchel both dazzled with brilliant starts during Thursday night’s clash between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, with Strasburg outdueling Keuchel by a hair, if only due to a key throwing error that allowed the Nats to score two runs.

Strasburg did raise some cause for concern as he exited after only 90 pitches and six innings due to a cramp in his left calf, although he was not forced to exit the game in the middle of an inning.

However, the starting pitching ended up being forgotten after Sean Doolittle and Brandon Kintzler allowed three runs to allow the Astros to tie the game.

Dusty Baker brought in Oliver Perez for the seventh, then Sean Doolittle for the eighth, and Brandon Kinztler for the ninth in an atypical flip-flop. Doolittle and Kintzler allowed three runs, extending the game to extras.

The Nationals were ultimately able to pull it out in the eleventh inning without getting a hit that left the infield; a base-hit bunt, wild pitch on a strikeout, and sac fly gave the Nats the lead back, and another clutch Matt Wieters hit gave the team a two-run cushion, pushing Washington’s lead to what would be the final score of 5-3.

The Nationals are now 76-49, with a magic number of 24.


  • Both Keuchel and Strasburg started off efficiently, with Keuchel surrendering the first hit of the game to Anthony Rendon, a line drive double off the left-field wall.
  • Alex Bregman recorded the Astros’ first hit on the first pitch of the bottom of fourth, a sharp ground ball to shortstop Wilmer Difo, whose throw to Ryan Zimmerman came in low and bounced over first base.
  • Jose Altuve proceeded to line a clean single up the middle on the next pitch, erasing any doubts of a potential no-hitter ruined by the official scorer.
  • Both runners were eventually erased as a ground ball to Zimmerman and a 6-4-3 double play got Strasburg out of the inning unscathed.
  • Walks to Rendon and Matt Wieters to lead off the top of the fifth put runners on first and second.
  • DH Pedro Severino came to the plate with one out and worked a full count before hitting a dribbler up the third base line, which Keuchel fielded on the run and threw to first. Astros’ first baseman Yulieski Gurriel misplayed the throw, allowing Rendon to score and Wieters to advance to third, putting the Nats up 1-0.
  • Alejandro De Aza hit a slow grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve, who was only able to get the out at second, allowing Wieters to cross the plate and extending Washington’s lead to 2-0.
  • In the bottom of the sixth, Strasburg struggled with a cramp in his left calf, but managed to strike out George Springer (despite his earlier attempt to sell a three-ball walk), before allowing a two-out double to Alex Bregman to bring up Altuve.
  • Out of concern, Mike Maddux, Dusty Baker, and trainer Paul Lessard came to the mound to check up on Strasburg. Strasburg then indicated that he was struggling with a cramp, and appeared to receive electrolytes and liquids on the mound from Athletic Training Assistant John Hsu while massaging his own leg before Altuve came to the plate.
  • Altuve lined out to left fielder Howie Kendrick to end the threat and the sixth inning, as well as both Strasburg and Altuve’s night (Altuve was replaced at second base in the top of the seventh due to neck discomfort).
  • Stephen Strasburg’s line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 7 SO, 1 BB, 90 P, 60 S.
  • Wieters led off the seventh with a single over Bregman, who had then moved to shortstop due to Altuve’s exit, with one out in the top of the seventh, and came around to score from first on Michael A. Taylor’s line drive double into the right-center field gap.
  • Keuchel finished the inning and then exited the game.
  • Dallas Keuchel’s line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 100 P, 64 S
  • Oliver Perez entered in the bottom of the seventh as Strasburg’s replacement, and pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
  • Francis Martes matched Perez in the top of the eighth, sitting the Nats down in order.
  • For the bottom of the eighth, Dusty Baker pulled a surprise by calling on Sean Doolittle, typically regarded as the team’s closer, for the bottom of the eighth instead of the ninth as normal. (It’s possible that Baker saw that the batters due up for the eighth were mainly left-handed, and that it might be a good opportunity to get Brandon Kintzler a save, which Baker has talked about to get Kintzler to 30 saves for the purposes of his free-agency stock.)
  • Doolittle allowed a double and a single to let the Astros on the board and cut the Nationals’ lead down to 3-1. Doolittle escaped the inning having allowed only one run, retiring the side on a long fly ball and a 6-4-3 double play.
  • Anthony Rendon hit a one-out double in the top of the ninth off of Luke Gregerson, but was stranded as Wieters and Taylor couldn’t bring him home.
  • Brandon Kintzler came in to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth, but allowed a leadoff single to Bregman, who advanced to second on a ground ball.
  • Kintzler then allowed a base hit up the middle to Josh Reddick, scoring Bregman and cutting the Nats’ lead to 3-2. Gurriel then doubled off the right-field wall to score Reddick from first, and tie the game at 3, for the Nats’ first blown save since July 3rd.
  • Carlos Beltran walked, but a screaming chopper to Ryan Zimmerman off the bat of Brian McCann got Kintzler out of the inning and kept the Nats alive, as the game went to extra innings.
  • Ken Giles entered for the Astros in the top of the tenth, and retired the side in order.
  • Matt Albers entered for the Nats in the bottom of the tenth, as Howie Kendrick exited in favor of Andrew Stevenson, likely as the beginning of Dusty Baker’s attempt to salvage some strength in his starters for the rough four-game stretch ahead. Albers sat down the side in order.
  • Old friend Tyler Clippard entered the game for the Astros in the top of the eleventh, as Wilmer Difo laid down a first-pitch bunt to lead off the inning, which he ran out for a base hit.
  • Difo, running with a 3-2 pitch to Daniel Murphy, advanced to second on a soft ground ball to second base. Ryan Zimmerman appeared to be hit by a pitch on the hand, which Astros manager A.J. Hinch challenged successfully, claiming that it hit off of the knob of Zimmerman’s bat.
  • Zimmerman re-entered the box and struck out, but the ball got away from catcher Brian McCann, advancing Wilmer Difo, the winning run, to third base for Anthony Rendon.
  • Rendon lifted a fly ball to shallow left field, just deep enough to score Difo from third as Reddick’s throw was just slightly off line towards the first base dugout.
  • With Zimmerman at first, Matt Wieters hit another double, this one into the gap in right-center field, scoring Zimmerman, who was running on the pitch, from first.
  • Sammy Solis entered for the bottom of the eleventh and allowed a leadoff home run to third baseman J.D. Davis, the first of his career, bringing the Astros within one and cutting Washington’s lead to 5-4.
  • After the home run, Solis retired the next two batters and (finally) shut the door on this one, recording his first major league save, the ninth Nat to record a save this season. Final Score: Nationals 5, Astros 4
  • Also: Orbit, the Astros’ mascot, and MASN sideline reporter Dan Kolko’s war finally came to an end as Orbit silly stringed Kolko.


  • The Nationals have won nine of 10 and 13 of their last 15 games against the Astros. Since the two teams began playing in 2005, there have only been four sweeps in the series, all turned in by Washington.
  • The Nats and Astros sit atop MLB in runs/game with Houston leading the way at 5.62 runs/game, and Washington second at 5.26 runs/game.
  • Since being acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies on July 28th, Nationals OF Howie Kendrick has hit .348 (24-for-69) with four doubles, one triple, five home runs, 16 RBI, four walks, two stolen bases, and 10 runs scored, with a .667 SLG % and a 1.050 OPS.
  • - Kendrick is also hitting .462 (6-for-13) with one double, one triple, one home run, 11 RBI and one walk with runners in scoring position since joining the Nationals.
  • Washington’s starting pitching staff has posted a 2.12 ERA (19 ER/80.2 IP) in their last 13 starts, dating to August 9th against Miami, leading Major League Baseball, and is nearly a run better than the next-best club, the Cleveland Indians (2.95) over that sames tretch.
  • Since August 6th at Chicago, Washington’s bullpen has pitched to a 2.15 ERA (11 ER/46.0 IP) with 43 strikeouts, 15 walks and an opposing batting average of just .160. Nationals relievers have allowed just four home runs during this stretch.
  • Over their last 13 games, Mike Maddux’s pitching staff has allowed just 11 home runs, the fewest in Major League Baseball during this stretch... The starting staff has surrendered seven home runs, while the bullpen has allowed four.
  • Astros starting pitchers have held their opponents to two-or-fewer runs in eight of their last 10 games dating back to August 13th, compiling a 2.40 ERA (16ER/60 IP), leading the AL and ranking second in the Majors only to the Washington Nationals (2.19 ERA, 15 ER/61.2IP)
  • The Nationals have scored at least 10 runs in a game 19 times this season, the most such games in franchise (Nats/Expos) history, eclipsing the previous record of 14 games set by the 2016 Nationals, and the most in the majors, ahead of Houston (18) and the Colorado Rockies (18).

The Nationals are now 76-49, with a magic number of 24.